This Franchisee's Business Has Taken Flight, But Not in an Ordinary Way
Bob Minkert was enthralled that a hot-air balloon could be used to promote his Mr. Electric franchise. So he went out and bought one.
Franchise Players is Entrepreneur's Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email email@example.com.
Long-time franchisee Minkert was sitting in traffic in 2008, wondering about the reason for the delay when he spotted its source: A hot-air "airship" was sailing above Atlanta with the name of a business emblazoned on its side. With his "curiosity and adventurous spirit piqued," as he puts it, he began researching the logistics of an airship and ended up launching his business into thin air. "So far, it's been getting the job done of spreading the word about Mr. Rooter Plumbing and Mr. Electric," Minkert reports. So much so that he may help his promotional effort take flight, so to speak, at a national level.
Name: Bob Minkert
Franchise owned: Mr. Electric of Atlanta and Mr. Rooter of Atlanta
How long have you owned a franchise?
I have been a franchisee since I bought my first location in 2000.
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I always knew that I wanted to be a business owner, and the franchise system offers the opportunity to own major brands in the marketplace that have proven best practices, systems and procedures. When I first bought the Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise in 2000, I really enjoyed the way the business was set to run and the opportunity for growth and resale potential, so I decided then to also invest in a brand under the same umbrella company called Mr. Electric.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Before getting into franchising, I was in the manufacturing industry as a representative for various OEM components.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Prior to purchasing my first franchise, Mr. Rooter Plumbing, I owned an existing plumbing, electric, heating and air conditioning service company for six years and had reached a point in sales growth and my own expertise where I felt I needed help in getting the business to the next level. Since the Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise existed in the Atlanta market for ten years or more, I felt I could gain the existing customer base and be a part of something bigger than myself. It paid off: We doubled sales the first year.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
The cost was minimal, as I rolled my existing plumbing business into the franchise -- overall, it was about 25,000 total, including $10,000 down toward purchase of the franchise, $12,000 for a sewer and other equipment and $4,200 for van decals, with nothing down because the vans were leased
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I spoke with a number of other men with whom I had a mentor relationship and consulted with my CPA and fellow business owners. I also made a point to research successful franchisees to emulate their best practices.
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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
I would have to say that the most unexpected challenge was managing growth and implementing changes to the franchise system when they needed to be made, for my rapidly growing location.
What is next for you and your business?
The next step for my business would be to grow our marketing platform. Most recently, I purchased an airship on which to display advertisements -- it's similar to a blimp, but its buoyancy is not from helium but rather hot air. With that, I plan to partner with organizations in the Atlanta area to see how each of us can benefit the most from the use of the airship.
I first got the idea to invest in an airship on a clear morning back in 2008 when I was sitting in a traffic jam on I-400, inching along. I kept thinking to myself, "Why is this taking so long?" I soon found out as I looked up and saw a huge hot air balloon flying over the city, causing people to slow down and take notice. My curiosity and adventurous spirit were piqued and I began researching the logistics of purchasing and owning a similar balloon for my business.
So far, it's been getting the job done by spreading the word about Mr. Rooter Plumbing and Mr. Electric. In the future, I look forward to putting a continued effort into utilizing the airship both in the Atlanta area and on a national level.
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